Space Force jettisons satire for “office” escapades with aimless episodes that produce few laughs and even little amusement as the series does nothing but kill time.
This review of Netflix’s Space Force season 2 contains no spoilers.
The Office is one of those very rare sitcoms that transcends generations. Like Friends, more people watch The Office now than they did when it was on the air. So, maybe it was unfair to expect that Greg Daniels and Steve Carell, the creators behind Space Force, wouldn’t be critically panned by critics with its anti-cringe comedy that gave us a heavy dose of political satirization. The timing was off, the humor doesn’t land, and it’s even more apparent after Netflix’s superior satire Don’t Look Up. So, what happens in season two? Nothing. Frankly, it’s a season of meandering bottleneck episodes like a plastic bag aimlessly floating around the Walmart parking lot. They have nothing to say and even less to make us laugh.
This season kicks off with General Mark Naird (Steve Carell) defending himself and his team. Why? Because he defied a direct order to attack China while on the moon’s Sea of Tranquility. In comparison, the Secretary (played by Carell’s “baby-back ribs” partner, Tim Meadows) gave him a reprieve but only four months to get Space Force’s act together. That means Dr. Mallory (John Malkovich) and Dr. Chan Kaifang (Jimmy O. Yang) are running an operation to Mars (with the lone astronaut played by Patton Oswalt).
Meanwhile, “F**k” Todd (Ben Schwartz) tries to create a positive buzz and even find sponsorship to help with a significant budget cut. Captain Ali (Tawny Newsom) tries to reacclimate herself on Earth. And Erin (Diana Silvers, a star in the making) takes an internship at the base under General Gregory’s (Don Lake) supervision.
The second season has a limited cast compared to the first season (I am sorry Lisa Kudrow fans). It also heavily invests in “office” like escapades. For instance, there is an episode where all that happens is reminiscent of the classic episode “The Office Olympics,” but without the laughs or amusement. The series abandons the heavy satire for an attempt at cringe comedy that rarely produces big laughs because the timing issue still has not worked itself out. Even the tone is noticeably different in some of the actor’s delivery. Carell has jettisoned the ominous barking that he stuck through the entire first season that now suddenly has more empathy with little explanation.
The show is doing some things well that comes down to the cast. Schwartz does his amusing schtick, even though his scenes are not congruent with the series of episodic stories. (What about that scene where he accompanies Captain Ali to a real estate seminar?). The romantic friction between Newsome’s Ali and Yang’s Chan is mild refreshing, and earnest at times. Veteran Don Lake is the only one who comes close to creating consistent laughs, while the former model Diana Silvers shows a glimmer of star-making talent in a thankless role. If I had a vote, Oswalt’s terrific cameo as a lonely, troubled astronaut is the only character that mixes comic timing with an unexpected poignancy.
But all of that is few and far between for seven thirty-minute episodes. One problem is the leads. Carell and Malkovich have no chemistry. The rest is that nothing happens with any urgency for a show that set up the sophomore season with four months to save their jobs. The entire story and cast seem to have a case of senioritis. It looks and feels like the whole cast is going through the motions before the eventual cancellation.
Space Force is just a meandering comedy that rarely produces laughs. It’s a series that is practically begging to be canceled. Besides the final scene, which could have me reading into the series too much, Daniels may have mercifully canceled the show on his own.
Which would be the series’ best joke by comparison.
What did you think of Netflix’s Space Force season 2? Comment below.